How being overweight impacts fertility

One of my coaching clients was told she needed to lose weight by her specialist to increase the chances of falling pregnant while doing IVF. She’d come to me to help her shift the extra weight and boost her chances of having a successful transfer.

During our recent session I asked her if she knew the reason behind why she had to release the weight? She didn’t know, only that it would help.

I know for me, when I’m aware of why I’m doing something, I’m more likely to follow through and stay motivated. So if you’re also in the same situation as my client, then read on.

When we look at couples who use IVF to conceive, it’s been shown women who are overweight or obese have a lower chance of a live birth and significantly higher miscarriage rate than women with a normal BMI.

But this applies to everybody however you conceive your baby.

So why does being overweight and obese such a weighty issue when it comes to FERTILITY?

Being overweight impacts a woman’s chance of conceiving a healthy baby because it:

  • Causes hormonal imbalances
  • Triggers problems with menstruation and ovulation
  • Increases risk of complications with pregnancy such as a miscarriage, diabetes or premature birth

How?

When we have excess fat, these fat cells produce a hormone called leptin that can disrupt the hormone balance and impacts the menstruation cycle.

Another reason, in a study of 726 Australian women aged 26-36 years old, they found the women who were considered obese were significantly associated with having irregular menstrual cycle which was influenced by the high amount of insulin in the blood and decrease levels of sex-hormone-binding globulin (a protein that is responsible for regulating androgen and estrogen).

In other words, insulin can disrupt the hormone balance and impacts the menstruation cycle.

When your menstruation cycle is impacted, this reduces fertility as it’s difficult to track or know if or when you’re ovulating.

Now get this, excess weight and obesity also increases the risk of anovulation which is when no egg is release by the ovaries and if this happens, fat chances of you getting pregnant (mind the pun.) Women with a BMI above 27 are three times more likely than women in the normal weight range to be unable to fall pregnant because they’re not ovulating.

Now if you’re overweight or obese and are ovulating, the truth of the matter is that the quality of your eggs are also reduced!

Which explains why being overweight impacts a woman’s chance of conceiving a healthy baby due to increased risk of complications with pregnancy such as a miscarriage, diabetes or premature birth.

so what can you do about it?

According to IVF Australia, a “healthy BMI range is between 18.5 to 24.9 for young and middle-aged adults. Under 18.5 is considered underweight and over 25 is overweight. If a woman’s BMI is greater than 35, the risk of problems become more significant.”

If you suspect your overweight or obese and is affecting your fertility, then let’s find out what your BMI is:

Click here to calculate your BMI

overweight or obese?

It can seem a bit overwhelming to hear some of the facts on how being overweight and obese impacts fertility but there is good news.

If you have clicked on the link above to checked your BMI and realised that you fall in the category of being overweight or obese, you have the power to change this, just like my client is doing right now.

The good news!

According to IVF Australia here are a few things you can start doing now:

  • Stopping smoking, as it reduces fertility by around 40%, and also increases the risk of miscarriage
  • Reducing alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Optimising weight by following a healthy diet and exercise routine
  • For a female, taking folic acid, ideally for three months prior to trying to conceive, as it is one of the few nutrients known to prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida
  • Managing known conditions, such as diabetes. This improves the chances of a healthy baby, and reduces the risk of miscarriage
  • Reviewing current medications and any implications for pregnancy with a GP
  • Understanding your menstrual cycle

As an Integrative Health Coach, my role is to support my clients to make those diet and lifestyle changes so they can start balancing their hormones naturally and increase their chances of falling pregnant.

If you feel you need support, then apply to book in for a free hormonal health and fertility assessment.

Photo by Negative Space

References:

What are the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Some of the more commonly known symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) include:

  • Irregular periods or no periods
  • Excess hair growth on the face, stomach and back
  • Loss or thinning of hair on the scalp
  • Acne and pimples
  • Difficulty falling pregnant naturally
  • Easy to gain weight or trouble releasing the weight
  • and being a light sleeper or inability to get a good night’s sleep

But did you know that having PCOS also means you are also at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes? I’ll explain a little further why.

So firstly, what is PCOS?

There is a misconception that women with PCOS means they have lots of cysts on their ovaries but that is not necessarily the case.

Often women with PCOS have underdeveloped eggs within their ovaries, so when they ovulate, the egg they release might not be mature and result in irregular cycles making it challenging for women to fall pregnant.

PCOS is a hormonal condition that is caused by a higher production of insulin and androgens (a male type hormone) in the body that impacts the way the ovaries function.

Is there a cure for PCOS?

From what we understand about PCOS, the short answer is no.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t women who are thriving with PCOS and who have gotten pregnant naturally.

Here is one of my clients, Liza sharing her experience with overcoming PCOS and adulthood acne:

Merly changed my life. How? Well, let’s go back to 2012. Life wasn’t exactly as I imagined my life would be. At 31 I was newly married with multiple health issues including adult acne, polycystic ovaries, stress and dare I say extremely unhappy. You see my husband and I had been struggling for a year to get pregnant without success. Another pregnancy test with only one line… Then there was Merly. (more…)

Liza, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

So what’s with these hormones?

Earlier I shared how women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of insulin and androgens in their bodies. The androgens are responsible for things such as the acne and excess hair.

Many women with PCOS, about 75-95% are insulin resistant which means the cells won’t let the insulin to do its job, so you end up with too much insulin and glucose in the bloodstream.

Insulin’s job is to to help the cells use glucose as an energy source.

The problem with this, is higher levels of insulin in the body results in an increase of male type hormones being produced and it becomes a bit of vicious cycle with the immature eggs within the ovaries.

Not only does that impact fertility but it also becomes a contributing factor for women with PCOS to be a higher risk of developing pre-diabetics and type 2 diabetes.

Tell me some good news Merly!

It’s not all doom and gloom. The wonderful thing is PCOS symptoms can be managed through diet and lifestyle such as:

  • Exercising to feel good but also to help balance hormones by reducing the levels of insulin in the body and managing weight
  • Eating a balanced and nutritious foods aswell as developing a positive relationship to food
  • Maintaining a healthy weight range, simply by reducing your weight by 5-10% can help with regulating your cycle and increasing your chances of falling pregnant

To support you on your journey to balance your hormones naturally, you can download my free 7 day hormone cleanse click here.